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Interview with Tattoo Artist Barış Kıymaz (NAKKAB)

Hello Mr. Barış. We are curious about your education life and what you do. Could you briefly introduce yourself?

I went to high school in technical school. I realized my interest in art a year after graduating from high school. In 2015, I quit my full-time job and bought a tattoo machine and prepared for aptitude tests. In 2016, I enrolled in Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University Ceramics and Glass Design Department. After studying for a while, I decided it wasn’t for me. I took the aptitude test again.

In 2018, I won the Marmara University Fine Arts Faculty Painting Department. I met most of the artists around me during this education period. While all this was going on, I was continuing to make tattoos. In 2021, I conducted tattoo tours in major cities in Europe. I saw a motivational interest. I came back to Turkey to graduate and completed my undergraduate education last June. I came to Berlin as soon as I finished school.

While creating your designs, you have a production process that you call “Sernakkab”. What is Sernakkab?

Sernakkab is a design-tattoo technique that I have been focusing on recently. The tattoos I have done are the tip of the iceberg. Tattoo is the last and shortest stage of this process. My design process is like an adventure and often even therapy for me. I open a free production space for myself by using patterns, various printing techniques and especially the possibilities of the art of marbling. I create original tattoo designs based on human anatomy.

When I started my first experiments, I was thinking that I should give this process a name. While I was reading about traditional Turkish arts, I came across the term “ser nakkaş” in an article written by Alan W. Fisher and Carol Garrett Fisher about the workshops of court painters in the Ottoman Empire. Thus, I started to name my new productions “sernakkab”.

The works you have created by using different techniques together are extremely successful. How and when did you start?

Thank you! The idea first emerged as a final project that I did in the 3rd year of my fine arts education. Thus, I had the opportunity to think about it for a long time, take sketches and do research. I learned that there are local and foreign artists who used to design tattoos with marbling techniques. In order to develop this idea and to relate to new contexts, I made various experiments and eventually developed methods by which I could reveal minimal, organic and conscious lines.

What is your source of inspiration? How has your style developed?

In the surface designs that I have been working on since my first years at the university, my professors drew attention to the concept of dynamism in my works. After realizing this, I consciously started to produce in this direction. I try to add vivid concepts such as flow, branching, speed and sharpness, which we see in nature, to my designs.

In addition, I photograph many things, from pillow tracks to tree shadows. When I need inspiration, I wander around my gallery for a while. At the same time, I feed my visual memory by following artists from different fields. For example, if there is a music clip that I like, I immediately research the production process. I think my style evolves on its own as the output of all these visual data I have acquired.

Sernakkab attracts more attention in Europe than in Turkey. What do you think is the reason for this?

While I don’t think this is just one reason, I think the most important reason is because my work is “authentic”. There were people from Paris, London, even Australia, coming to Istanbul and saying “I want a sernakkab”. Even my old sketches were found differently by the visitors and attracted attention. I like that this situation continues in Europe, because they want to learn more about my work.

What do you do other than tattoo?

I have a different relationship with conceptual art. I do projects that come to my mind. I also take notes on projects that I can’t find time for and collect sketches. I look at lots of new works and try to keep my ties strong with contemporary art. I usually collect data by taking pictures and reading. I collaborate with other artists around me.

Isn’t it difficult to promote yourself and your business in another country?

I haven’t had any difficulties yet. The fact that social media is so fast and unlimited in conveying information makes everything easier. Although I have been tattooing in Turkey for 7 years, 70% of the people following me are from different countries, including Germany and America. The fact that art, especially tattoo art, is a universal language is a great advantage for artists.

What are you dealing with these days?

When I find time to make tattoos and designs, I continue my personal work. I have a photography project on urban sociology, it’s called “Istanbul 2022”. It was also my diploma project. We are currently working on the Berlin version of the project. At the same time, I am learning German and preparing for upcoming exhibitions.

Can you tell us about your future projects?

In the near future, first of all, I want to complete my unfinished personal projects and exhibit them. James Cameron’s Avatar is a huge inspiration for me. There are tattoo designs that I made with reference to the atmosphere in the movie. In addition, we are planning joint projects with other artists in Berlin. We will share it on our social media accounts soon.

Getting to know you and discovering your works has been a remarkable thing for us. Thank you! Can we have your last words?

Thank you for taking your time. There is a worldwide renaissance in tattoo art right now and I am very happy to be a part of this era.

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